Summary: An introduction and the church at thessalonica
Then Paul goes on to mention the cardinal virtues of the Christian faith – namely faith, love and hope. Note what he says about each of these:
Work produced by faith – work is the end product of faith. James says that faith without works is dead. We all know that we are not saved by works but in Ephesians 2 verses 8-9 Paul states that we are saved to do good works. Work is the essential fruit of the believing life. You see were faith is genuine it works. Paul is impressed by their active Christian lives. The worship is over the service begins – is not a bad thing to have on the back of your church notice board. You see lazy and careless Christians actually demonstrate a lack of real living faith.
Labour prompted by love - it is easy to say you love but quite another to love. Love does not stop at the ordinary effort – on the contrary it goes the extra mile and more. Because these people love God in Christ Jesus they are prompted to labour. What Paul is actually speaking about here is self-sacrifice. Self-sacrifice of their time, their talents and their resources. Let me ask you a question is your love for God seen in labour, in self-sacrifice? When I look around church this morning I see many of you and I know the sacrifices you make in your daily lives for the sake of the gospel. I know the sacrifice of time, talent and resources that you give to HT. But can I ask us all do we really make sacrifices for the gospel. How about the fact that we need another Sunday School helper, we need a team of people to allow the Sunday School teachers to hear a sermon now and then. We need a home for the second housegroup to meet in. we will all be challenged in the year ahead to make financial sacrifices to build a bigger building. Labour prompted by love.
Endurance inspired by hope – not just a vague hope but hope in the second coming of Christ Jesus. When times are hard these believers kept on hoping. They did not wallow in self-pity, they did not give up when the going got tough – why? Because their hope was not in an easy comfortable life, their hope was in the risen conquering Son of God. Theirs was no earthly hope but a heavenly hope.
You see Paul expected that faith would work, that love would labour and that hope would endure. They were, and are, signs of a Christian life. You see faith without love has no integrity, faith without hope well it loses direction and love without faith slips into sloppy sentimentality. All three are productive in the life of the Christian believer. Paul is impressed by their active Christian living and for this he gives thanks to God for them.
Then in verse 4 he reminds them that God has chosen them. He is confident that God has chosen them because he sees the evidence of Christian faith in their daily living. Transformed lives are one of the undeniable evidences of election. How did this change come about in their lives?
Verse 5 the gospel came to them in words but not simply words. It came in power. They knew it was no emotional trip which they were on. No the gospel came to them not just in words but in power. Words were essential but not sufficient. Think about it for a moment. They heard the gospel, many people do, but they could not respond unless the gospel came in power to them. The plain words of the gospel came with power to their hearts, to their ears, to their eyes, to their minds and they were transformed by the gospel. It came in the power of the Holy Spirit. The word was not only divine it came to them with a deep conviction that it was the Word of God, it was the gospel of Life. Power of the gospel did not depend on the eloquence of Paul, nor on his wisdom but on the power of the Holy Spirit. God had spoken and they knew it full well. And we know that experience also. You have had that experience haven’t you? When someone spoke the gospel and you knew it was God’s Word to you there and then. You were reading your bible and you heard the Word of God speak to you and your condition, situation. The Thessalonians heard the gospel – it was transmitted by word, but it came in power with the Holy Spirit. The result of this Paul outlines in the last four verses of this chapter.